New Jersey is an agricultural paradox.
A state with high population density and high development pressure, New Jersey also has a high demand for local and organic food, and a culture that supports land preservation and resource conservation. The richness of the land, length of the growing season, and size of the market provide an extraordinary opportunity for beginning farmers, while the high costs of living, soaring land costs, and declining farm infrastructure present a daunting challenge for those same beginning farmers.
Urban and suburban communities all around the state are driving up the demand for local and organic food. Farmers’ markets have exploded to over 140 in the Garden State, up from 40 in 2000. However, the greatest downfall of most markets is there are generally too few farmers, and specifically too few, if any, organic producers.
This is where we step in.
The NOFA-NJ Beginning Farmer Program bridges the gap for beginning farmers seeking support and education by making training more accessible and affordable to the beginning organic farmer in New Jersey. Three ways in which we do this are through:
- Beginning farmer scholarships to increase access to learning and skill development opportunities.
- A new online video learning library for those seeking more information.
- Mentorship to provide an experienced farmer’s guidance.
Over the past three years, our Beginning Farmer Program, the only one of its kind in the state, has granted over 300 beginning farmer scholarships, offered over 30 technical workshops, organized numerous business intensive trainings, and responded to over 400 technical assistance requests for beginning organic farmers. This program offers qualified beginning farmers scholarship opportunities for educational courses on topics ranging from organic certification to business planning and organic orchard management to tractor safety and maintenance.
"I eat organic food! I want to support my local farmers! What can I do to help Grow New Organic Farmers in New Jersey?"
Your financial contribution goes DIRECTLY towards supporting beginning sustainable and organic farmers in New Jersey:
- $20,000 for Scholarships - The hefty capital investment required by farm businesses, combined by New Jersey’s high cost of living, places a considerable financial burden on beginning farmers, often pushing the cost of education out of their reach. Many beginning farmers have stated that without the scholarships awarded to them by NOFA-NJ, they could not have afforded to attend these courses and conferences that have provided them the skills and knowledge they needed to improve their farm businesses.Through the scholarship program, NOFA-NJ is able to subsidize the cost of training for beginning farmers and provide access to the information needed for farm production and business success.
Once we've reached our $20,000 minimum to support beginning organic and sustainable farmers by increasing their access to educational opportunities through scholarships, we hope to raise the following to further increase a beginning organic farmer's chance of success:
- $5,000 for Online Video Learning Library - With this additional $5,000 NOFA-NJ will create a technical video learning library comprised of short informational videos recorded at on-farm workshops and interviews and broadcast them via a new NOFA-NJ YouTube channel, accessible to beginning farmers throughout the nation. These videos will also publicize educational and farming opportunities in New Jersey and encourage beginning farmers to continue their education through in-person trainings and consultations.
- $5,000 for Mentorship - Add more mentors to our Mentoring Program! NOFA-NJ’s Mentoring Program provides new farmers the expert guidance they need from experienced farmers who've “been there.” Mentor farmers are linked with beginning farmers and provide advice and support during these critical years of building a business. Good mentorship is valuable and often good mentors are working farmers themselves. For this reason, NOFA-NJ compensates mentors for their time spent supporting and guiding beginning farmers.
- Every $1,000 more sends FIVE MORE beginning farmers to our Annual Winter Conference, a 2 day event with over 50 workshops and over 600 people in attendance.
Risks and challenges
Growing New Organic Farmers addresses the education access needs of new farmers in a densely-populated, highly developed state. Through the design and implementation of our training program, a couple issues were identified as possible obstacles. NOFA-NJ must:
-Design trainings that are attractive to new farmers that they feel are instrumental to their success. Historically, workshops we’ve designed specifically in response to farmers’ requests have had the highest enrollment; this Kickstarter will enable even more beginning organic and sustainable farmers in New Jersey to attend these workshops and courses vital to their development.
-Ensure that the outreach surrounding these trainings and available scholarship opportunities reaches a large number of potential and current beginning farmers. Central to our outreach strategy is partnership with mentor farmers to recruit beginning farmers at the intern/apprentice level. By partnering with the mentor farmers, who employ a large number of interns and apprentices on their own farms, we are confident we will develop a long-term relationship with the very ‘beginners’ who would benefit most from the opportunities afforded them by this Kickstarter campaign.
By designing trainings based on mentor farmer feedback, we will be ensuring their support of programs and a steady flow of beginning farmers seeking additional training, mentorship, and scholarship opportunities.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)